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What it means for us to repent

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What it means for us to repent

Nigel Fox believes that now is the time for a tide of repentance, and shares his thoughts about what that actually means for our society

Although I’m now in my fifth decade of following Jesus as Saviour and Lord, I still feel like a beginner, knowing there’s still so much to learn from the Master
Thankfully, those restrictive times of Covid lockdown gave ample opportunity for deeper and prayerful study of our Scriptures, especially via NT Greek and, to lesser extent, some OT Hebrew. I found that several words and phrases, so familiar in our English, were a little different in their original Greek. I soon discovered there were numerous things I thought I knew, but didn’t
One word that stood out for me, and continues to appear in my studies, is the word ‘repentance’. I remembered it was what I went through in turning from my sins and then becoming a devout follower of Jesus in 1978-79. By His grace, I repented of an old life and lifestyle, and embraced a new life of faith in Jesus. But I’ve found that repentance carries a larger and ongoing meaning. It was the first word of the Baptist’s message of the kingdom (Matthew 3:2 etc). It was also the first word of Jesus’s public ministry in Galilee (Matthew 4:17). It is foundational
In Greek, the word is written as μετ?νοια or “metanoia” [verb: to repent is μετανο?ω], and it means gaining a new mind above and beyond one’s natural mind – i.e. a change of mind that produces a change of heart and of life etc. The similar word in Hebrew is “teshuvah”, based on ??? or “shuwb”, which also carries the notion of turning back or returning from our straying, and therefore of repetition. It’s not merely a one-off
Far from any unfashionable U-turns, repentance is a necessary realignment of ourselves to the Lord. In addition, it is not something we merely do ourselves. We rely upon God to bring it about, by His grace. It is grace upon grace (John 1:16) out of His fullness. His Spirit brings it all about in our lives (John 16:8) by His convicting and convincing ministry that leads us to life. Isn’t this what we all need …and especially so at this time?
Many are of the view that we’re in a new era, a time of increasing uncertainty and anxiety. But it’s also a time of opportunity, when Church need no longer remain in lockdown or a pre-Covid mindset. It’s time to awaken, to arise to our true stature and stand for Jesus. As followers of Jesus, we’re expected to seek first the kingdom. Surely, that means we must seek the King above all else, and turn, or re-turn, to Him. That’s repentance. With those who long for revival and have not yet seen it, I also long for genuine transformational revival – and have so often prayed for it. But I’m now pleading for a spirit of repentance, for God-given repentance is the key. Isn’t this what we need to pray for?
There’s an increasing awareness of the urgent need to meet together to pray together – and rather than pray for revival, far better to pray for repentance. After all, it’s about turning to the Lord, and it is the gateway to life. Isn’t this the need for these times?

Nigel Fox has served as a Methodist Minister since the mid-1980s, including 15 years since 2002 in Norwich, largely at Wroxham Road and with the Chinese Church. He still preaches frequently, but is now 'retired' and enjoys more time with his four children and eight grandchildren.


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